Let’s start off on the right foot
“Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.” – Brené Brown
There are over 9 million open jobs in the U.S., and no one wants them.
Why, pray tell.
Well, the pandemic was a breaking point for many workers, especially those in low-wage positions. Many are simply fed up with being treated poorly, while barely making enough to get by. And, what’s more, many of these unsung heroes are the ones performing “essential” duties.
So, they quit and won’t come back?
It’s a little more complicated. Settle in for some economic history. Over the past 40 years, wages have soared for higher-income workers but barely budged for people at the bottom of the ladder. By one estimate, 53 million people were low wage before the pandemic, making an average of $10.22 an hour. Guess how much the average CEO made in 2020?
I’ll save you the google, $15.3 million.
Out of this world. And after 17 months of having to show up to jobs in person, putting their lives on the line while white collar and knowledge workers were able to swap pants with buttons for elastic waistbands, these lower-wage workers have had enough.
Don’t blame ‘em.
You’re starting to understand. Now that the country is opening back up and calling back the people that were laid off or quit, many employees are saying “pony up, or bust.” And now employers are being forced to raise wages and offer perks like college tuition and signing bonuses to lure in employees.
Are those perks…perking?
Actually, yes, they're practically milkshakes. Workers are seeking out companies, and industries for that matter, that are giving raises alongside a path to better careers. Those companies aren’t having any trouble filling their open roles.
Remember those tuition benefits? After Waste Management announced it would offer 36,000 full-time workers AND their dependents free tuition for undergraduate and graduate degrees, it’s recruiting drive attracted 1,200 people. Before you scoff, 420 offers were made and 70% of those people have started working for WM.
That’s a real hiring stampede.
Exactly. And if you don’t want to be the Mufasa in this stampede scenario, then you best start thinking about how you’re going to improve potential employees’ lives and careers, so you can start filling those open jobs.
Further reading: Labor shortage pressures grocers to take a hard look at worker benefits.
Date with data: 764,000 leisure and hospitality workers quit in May alone.
Totes quotes: “For low-wage workers, the pandemic demonstrated how much inequality there is—it’s really leading them to ask, is this the kind of job I want? Or should I leave?” —Thomas Kochan, professor of work and employment research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management
Totes quotes two: “The plurality of workers are saying, ‘O.K., $15 an hour, but what do I do all day? And is there a job after that for me, and where does it take me? Career mobility is now the value proposition that matters for companies.” —Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education
Studies show that empathy is important to workplace productivity, retention, and DEI efforts but pedaling empathy without authentic change can backfire for employers.
I like to think about it as the empathy mullet complex. You can’t have empathy in the front and scraggly policy in the back. For example, putting out a lot of messaging about empathy in the workplace, while simultaneously cutting out workplace flexibility benefits.
Isn’t it ironic?
A little too ironic. But really, empathy should be a cultural principle. If you make the promise, as a company, that you’re going to make empathy a priority, your employees are going to hold you to that standard.
But how do you do that exactly?
You mean how do you treat everyone equally while also making exceptions for everyone? It’s a tough case to crack, that’s for sure. But see what you can do in terms of training. Organizations are trying to train employees and leaders in empathy aka learning to treat each other as people (people with kids, people with disabilities, people with lives), not productivity robots.
Dare I say it?
What about profits? Yes, you’re right, generally, the main goal of any company is profits without friction. And within this framework, a “frictionless” employee is ideal. However, frictionless could translate to…sameness.
What do you mean?
Well, think about it, empathy might not have been as important 50 or 60 years ago when a large majority of people in the workplace were cisgender white males–but now, as the U.S. workforce continues to diversify, empathy is going to play a major role in successful workplace culture and is a key component to help employees bring their whole selves to work.
Totes quotes: “It’s not just a workplace empathy deficit, it’s an American cultural deficit.” – Johnny Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management
Date with data: Dissatisfaction or unhappiness with work cost U.S. companies $450 million to $550 million a year in lost productivity in 2013.
Double date: Only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organizations was “sufficient.”
Further reading: Benefits Bounce Back – Using Empathy to Rebuild, Reconnect, and Recover.
Allowing employees into the “inner circle” to weigh in on decisions that affect them is one excellent way to practice the art of leadership.
The art of leadership?
Yes, it’s a thing. Since leadership isn’t something everyone can do or wants to do well, it truly takes practice to become a great leader.
Another great tip, study how your team works. Understanding the individuals on your team and the dynamics between team members helps develop a successful ecosystem where the success of one person drives the success of others.
Umm…right. Another logical step in practicing the art of leadership is to seek mentorship. Many managers aren’t trained to be managers, reach out to a boss you liked before and ask them for advice to guide you through the process.
Further reading: This might be the worst way to ask someone to mentor you.
Now a break from the news…
Here’s something to…
- Focus on: Tips on truly focusing on what you’re doing.
- Pick: 79 tomato recipes for height of the season.
- Consider: COVID-19 helped patients take greater control of their health.
- Play: Zoom is adding games.
- Think about: Feeling lonely?
- Beware: IRS fourth stimulus checks hoaxes.
- Track: Bingo for virtual meetings.
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